Cook Islands PM wins poll mandate

RAROTONGA (Reuter) - The leader of the Cook Islands marked election victory with flowers and drums yesterday, but one of his ministers headed for defeat for trying to bring a McDonald's restaurant to one of the most isolated spots in the Pacific.

Provisional results from one of the world's least populated democracies gave victory to the ruling Cook Islands Party with 19 of the 25 seats, two more than in the outgoing parliament.

Sir Geoffrey Henry, the new Prime Minister, said an opposition campaign highlighting allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement had little impact on the 11,000 voters in the 15-island group, which stretches over thousands of square miles of ocean south of Hawaii.

'Polynesians are like that,' he said. 'I think it was more an international issue rather than a local one. When it comes to these sorts of things it is the motherhood issues which really count.'

People were more concerned about health, education and jobs than allegations of tax-haven corruption and mismanagement of the construction of a dollars 50m ( pounds 34m) Sheraton hotel, Sir Geoffrey said.